Lexington, KY – October 7, 2010 – ParaDressage participated and crowned champions for the first time in the history of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. For many of the para-equestrians participating in the Games was reward in and of itself, but for the Europeans who came to Kentucky Horse Park winning was the name of the game. Great Britain emerged victorious with team gold, helped along by their medal sweep in Grade 1a. Germany took team silver, and the Netherlands prevailed for the bronze.
In the team competition, the USA finished eighth out of 16 participating nations. American para-equestrians gave their best effort but were unable to match the scores of the European riders. The difference between the American para-riders’ score of 197.456 and the British tally of 214.529 did not seem like much, but fractions mean the difference between being a medalist or an also ran.
The Individual tests in Grades II, Ia and Ib concluded just before the medal ceremony. Yesterday, Grades III and IV went under the scrutiny of the panel of five judges.
Of the 18 competitors in Grade IV (least disabled), Sophie Wells (GBR) earned the gold medal with the top score of 71.677 and Frank Hosmar (NED) ran a close second on 70.129 to garner silver, with Henrik Weber Sibbesen (DEN) taking the bronze on 9.419.
Robin Brueckmann scored the best among the Americans for sixth place on Raison d’Etre. Susan Treabess (Moneypenny) and Jennifer Baker (Kranak) both earned scores of 64.839 to tie for ninth place. Mary Jordan (Paxton Abbey) finished on 63.419 for 13th place.
The Grade III competition proved pretty fierce with Hannelore Brenner (GER) and Women of the World laying down a test good enough for gold with the top score of 72.400. Annika Lykke Dalskov (DEN) partnered with Pruessen Wind to harvest silver (71.067) and the bronze went “down under” with Sharon Jarvis (AUS) and Applewood Odorado (68.867). The USA had two in this class: Wendy Fryke and Lateran placed eighth on 64.067 with Erin Alberda 12th on 60.267.
“It was the first time for me down the centerline, and I am thrilled [Lateran] tried really hard,” said Fryke. “He played at times, but kept it together. I’m so excited to be here, because it is my first time at an international competition. I was nervous, but once I got in there he asked me to get to business and I needed to get to business. It is such an honor to be here.”
Feeling honored and humble to be part of the World Equestrian Games was a theme that ran through both the para-equestrians and able-bodied spectators. The importance of getting para-riding out into the public consciousness was very important to everyone involved.
“I hope that it will get the ball rolling in the US and bring [para-riders] out of the woodwork,” said Alberda. “It is great to share a stage with top athletes and be a part of this. I am very proud of my horse that we have come this far.”
Grade II started off the proceedings this morning with 20 para-riders. In the next to last test of the division, Petra Van Sande and Toscane merited 69.238, thereby topping the lead established a few rides earlier by the 2008 Olympic gold medalist Britte Naepel (GER) and Aquilina (67.905), who had to settle for silver. Denmark staked another claim to bronze, thanks to Caroline Cecilie Nielsen and Rostorn’s Hatim-Tinn. Nielsen bested by the narrowest of margins – 67.238 – the next best score, 67.143, which resulted in a tie for fourth place between Angelika Trabert (GER), doing the honors on Ariva-Avanti, and Grace Bowman (AUS), partnering with Kirby Park Joy.
“It was a good ride. I’d like a little bit more energy, but I was very happy,” said Rebecca Hart who finished 11th in Grade II with Norteassa. “He listened to me through the whole test. This has been an awesome experience for me. I think that ParaDressage is getting a lot of really good public awareness because of the WEG, awareness of the kind of horse that’s needed. I think that the WEG will really get the ball rolling.”
The Grade Ia class brought home the importance of a good forward walk for this most disabled group and how each horse-rider duo can perform the same test so differently. U.S. rider Laura Goldman finished just two points out of the medals on 69.900 per cent. “I’ve got to tell you – I was scared,” admitted Hart. “Now it’s not scared. I’m amazed at myself. It’s because my horse is fantastic – without him I couldn’t do it. And my coach is really on the ball. I hope the sport grows in this country, and we get as strong as the Europeans.”
This petite para-rider partnered with Carlingford JD, the flashy black and white paint Irish Sport Horse owned by Trudy Phillips, to pull off a hat-trick in May at the Ashburn CPEDI*** (CAN), taking first place in the team competition, individual and freestyle. So, perhaps a good consequence of this improvement in score that moved her up in the ranks just a day or so after getting her feet wet at WEG, perhaps the Freestyle will see the USA on the podium, after all.
“I think it went pretty well,” commented Goldman about her individual test. “I know there were some mistakes, but they were my fault. I still get uptight and nervous, but when I get on him it all goes away. I’m going to ride him home and put him under my bed. I like my freestyle. I’m looking forward to riding it.”
Goldman’s horse, Carlingford JD, happens to be a Prix St. Georges competitor in US chef d’equipe Missy Ransehousen’s barn. Goldman might just take the horse home: “When I set my mind to do something, I’m going to do it,” Goldman admitted. “When I saw the advertisement for WEG, I said, ‘I’m going to do that.’ ”
Kim Decker (VA) made her debut representing the USA in international competition, riding Dasher’s Destiny to finish 15th place on a score of 60.900. She too dove into the international para-pond and learned what to expect in terms of performance and the competition.
“I thought it was really good. He [Dasher] felt like he was really on,” she said. “He’s a good boy every time I go into the ring.”
In the Ia individual test the British demonstrated the standard, scoring a hat-trick that claimed the best scores and won all three medals. Sophie Christiensen (GBR) and Rivaldo of Berkeley captured the individual gold on a score of 76.100, which caused her to scream and cry. Anne Dunham and Teddy received 73.200 for the silver and Emma Sheardown and Purdy’s Dream earned 71.900 for the bronze medal.
“That score is the highest I’ve ever gotten in the individual test,” admitted Christiensen. “The feeling afterwards is so wonderful. I was so nervous this morning. I can’t wait for my freestyle.”
Grade Ib ran right up to the awards ceremony. In this ‘most disabled’ but not as severely as Ia, tests included movements at the trot, and British riders topped the scoring. Lee Pearson has not given up a gold medal since the 2004 Athens Olympics, and today’s ride on Gentleman proved to be the rule, not the exception as he earned 76.435. Ricky Balshaw and Academy Award earned 72. 870 for the Silver Medal. Norway’s Jens Lasse Dokkan and Lacour and Denmark’s Stinna Targe Kaastrup ended up tied for third on a score of 70.174, but the collected marks told the tale and Dokkan stood on the podium.
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